Truth and Truthfulness: An Essay in Genealogy

Williams, Bernard
ISBN:
9780691117911

What does it mean to be truthful? What role does truth play in our lives? What do we lose if we reject truthfulness? No philosopher is better suited to answer these questions than Bernard Williams. Writing with his characteristic combination of passion and elegant simplicity, he explores the value of truth and finds it to be both less and more than we might imagine. Modern culture exhibits two attitudes toward truth: suspicion of being deceived (no one wants to be fooled) and skepticism that objective truth exists at all (no one wants to be naive). This tension between a demand for truthfulness and the doubt that there is any truth to be found is not an abstract paradox. It has political consequences and signals a danger that our intellectual activities, particularly in the humanities, may tear themselves to pieces. Williams's approach, in the tradition of Nietzsche's genealogy, blends philosophy, history, and a fictional account of how the human concern with truth might have arisen. Without denying that we should worry about the contingency of much that we take for granted, he defends truth as an intellectual objective and a cultural value. He identifies two basic virtues of truth, Accuracy and Sincerity, the first of which aims at finding out the truth and the second at telling it. He describes different psychological and social forms that these virtues have taken and asks what ideas can make best sense of them today. Truth and Truthfulness presents a powerful challenge to the fashionable belief that truth has no value, but equally to the traditional faith that its value guarantees itself. Bernard Williams shows us that when we lose a sense of the value of truth, we lose a lot both politically and personally, and may well lose everything. Editorial Reviews The Philosopher's Magazine Truth and Truthfulness is an ambitious work, and its journeys into history give it a breadth unusual in these days of increased academic specialization. . . . William's book combines real history and fictional constructs to tell a revealing story that makes us reconsider the meaning of familiar concepts. -- Julian Baggini Times Literary Supplement Truth and Truthfulness is the book which has meant the most to me this year. . . . This vigorous, crystalline book is an intellectual landmark. Toronto Globe & Mail If philosophers ever became kings, they would all be like Mr. Williams. His books were clear, funny, dramatic and readable, like great novels. . . . His final book, Truth and Truthfulness, has come along at exactly the right moment. It both describes our current crisis of truth and offers hope for a resolution. -- Doug Saunders Toronto Globe and Mail If philosophers ever became kings, they would all be like Mr. Williams. His books were clear, funny, dramatic and readable, like great novels. . . . His final book, Truth and Truthfulness, has come along at exactly the right moment. It both describes our current crisis of truth and offers hope for a resolution. -- Doug Saunders Times Literary Supplement - Simon Blackburn [Truth and Truthfulness] shows all Williams's characteristic virtues. He is always a pleasure to read, and as it has often done before, his deft, sparkling intelligence newly illuminates an old philosophical subject, scattering light into many surprising corners as it does so. . . . He is consistently amusing, but at absolutely no cost to the depth of the enterprise. And what a wonderful life it would be if even a small proportion of philosophers could write so well. New Republic - Thomas Nagel Its virtuoso blend of analytic philosophy, classical scholarship, historical consciousness, and uninhibited curiosity marks Truth and Truthfulness unmistakably as a work by Bernard Williams. He responds to Rousseau and Diderot; Thucydides, Herodotus, and Homer; Nietzsche, Hume, Plato, and Kant; Rorty, Habermas, and Hayden White. London Review of Books - Richard Rorty Anyone who wants to understand the relations between the relatively arcane issues concerning truth debated by philosophy professors, and the larger question of what self-image we human beings should have, would do well to read Williams's new book. It is a major work. The San Francisco Chronicle - Kenneth Baker Many colleagues consider Williams the most influential voice in contemporary moral philosophy. . . . [This book] may well have a noteworthy impact. It is Williams' reflection on the moral cost of the intellectual vogue for dispensing with the concept of truth. . . . The patient reader will enjoy the rare experience of watching philosophical and historical scaffolding installed, or revealed, beneath everyday expectations and practices of honesty, trust, doubt, deceit and wishful thinking. Sunday Telegraph - Alasdair Palmer [A] brilliant and disturbing book. . . . This is a fascinating and riveting work, and it shows, in a way which no other recent work of philosophy has done, that the subject can be both important and comprehensible--and that is a very considerable achievement indeed. New Statesmen - Edward Skidelsky The book is never dull or nerdy. It is suffused by a sly Oxonian humor and a keen feeling for pleasures and philosophical argument. . . . Yet this playfulness does not detract from its underlying seriousness of purpose: this is a defense of the value of truth against those modern skeptics who deny its existence. . . . [I]t offers the rare pleasure of a first-rate philosophical mind at work. Times Higher Education Supplement - Ray Monk A new book by Bernard Williams is a big event, and it is not difficult to see why. He writes on important and fundamental issues that are of interest not only to philosophers but also to anyone who wants to understand contemporary culture and society. . . . And above all, he writes with the kind of eloquence, elegance and wit that used to characterize the work of our greatest minds but that has now all but disappeared from academic life. What he writes, people want to read, and what he says, people want to hear. Washington Post Book World - Peter Berkowitz Deftly, and with a certain relish, [Williams] explores the barefaced lying and the many subtler forms of deception and self-deception we practice. . . . The array of arguments he marshals to cast light on the problem leaves little doubt: If you wish to develop your talents, earn the love of another, or pursue justice, then cultivate the virtues of truth. The Philosophers' Magazine - Julian Baggini Truth and Truthfulness is an ambitious work, and its journeys into history give it a breadth unusual in these days of increased academic specialization. . . . William's book combines real history and fictional constructs to tell a revealing story that makes us reconsider the meaning of familiar concepts. Literary Review - A.C. Grayling Elegance and subtlety are the hallmarks of Bernard Williams's philosophical style, both in the quality of his thought and the manner of his prose. His contributions have enriched philosophical debate for decades, and as this absorbing book about the truth and the vocations of truth shows, they continue to do so. . . . Williams's careful, eloquent and searching analysis . . . makes a valuable contribution to philosophy. New York Review of Books - Colin McGinn Bernard Williams has been a distinctive presence on the intellectual scene for more than three decades. . . . His writings do not offer the dubious exhilaration of grand philosophical theory, in which messy reality is tamed and caged, but the thrill of seeing pretension punctured by a kind of high-voltage common sense (backed up by impressive erudition). . . . There is no one in philosophy quite like him. The Weekly Standard - Thomas Hibbs Williams observes that unsettling questions about truth have been on the table at least since Nietzsche. . . . Truth and Truthfulness addresses these questions in a clear and cogent . . . manner. Toronto Globe and Mail - Doug Saunders If philosophers ever became kings, they would all be like Mr. Williams. His books were clear, funny, dramatic and readable, like great novels. . . . His final book, Truth and Truthfulness, has come along at exactly the r

Tag cloud generated by Coginov API
Concepts extracted by AlchemyAPI AlchemyAPI